Re-Grading MLB's Important July Trades with 1 Month to Go
With several weeks in the books since the July 31 trade deadline, it's time to re-assess the biggest deals that happened and the impact they had on their new teams. The one that's probably made the greatest impact so far, believe it or not, is the Los Angeles Dodgers' trade for starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco.
When you think of the team's amazing turnaround, you think of the arrival of Yasiel Puig and the healthy returns of shortstop Hanley Ramirez and starting pitcher Zack Greinke. But it's been so much more and Nolasco's arrival was a big part of it.
Since the Dodgers acquired the 30-year-old Nolasco on July 6 for pitching prospects Steve Ames, Angel Sanchez and Josh Wall, they have gone 38-10 and have gained over 14 games in the standings to take a commanding lead in the NL West.
Sure, it's taken a total team effort and return to near overall health, but the arrival of Nolasco stabilized the back of a pitching rotation that had been decimated by injuries and had rookie right-hander Matt Magill filling out the rotation. Magill made six starts even though he was in no way ready for the big leagues.
In Nolasco's 10 starts, he has a 2.20 ERA. He's given up three earned runs or less in all of those starts. Not by coincidence, the Dodgers have won eight of those 10 games. For this trade, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti gets an "A" grade.
I've assessed and graded 10 more notable July deals. Use the comments section to chime in on which has turned out to be the best thus far.
All statistics compiled through August 29.
Orioles Acquire Francisco Rodriguez
The second of three pitching acquisitions the Baltimore Orioles made in July, Francisco Rodriguez came over from Milwaukee for infield prospect Nick Delmonico (.661 OPS, 0 HR in 19 High-A games since trade) on July 23rd. A few weeks removed from recording his 300th career save, the 31-year-old had been very impressive with the Brewers (1.09 ERA, 24.2 IP, 17 H, 9 BB, 26 K, 10 Sv) before the trade.
He's been less effective with Baltimore, having been scored upon in five of 14 appearances (13.2 IP, 7 ER, 5 HR) so the deal hasn't quite worked out for the O's as of yet. Rodriguez does have just three walks and 20 strikeouts, so the stuff is still there.
The O's need him to regain his form if they have a shot at erasing their deficit in the playoff race.
Red Sox Acquire Matt Thornton
With their top lefty relief pitcher, Andrew Miller, out for the season with a foot injury, Joel Hanrahan (elbow) also out for the season, and Andrew Bailey (shoulder) appearing in his last game of the year on the day Matt Thornton was acquired, the Boston Red Sox did well to pick up the veteran lefty from the Chicago White Sox for minor league outfielder Brandon Jacobs (.581 OPS in 40 Double-A games since trade).
The 36-year-old had a rough debut with Boston, picking up the loss after allowing a run on a hit and two walks against Oakland a day after the trade. But he bounced back to allow just one earned run in his next 7.2 innings before landing on the disabled list with an oblique injury.
Thornton returned to action on Tuesday, retiring the only hitter he faced in a 13-2 victory against the Orioles. Despite having several other lefties in the pen who have pitched well, including Craig Breslow and rookie Drake Britton, the Sox will likely begin to rely on Thornton more down the stretch.
Tigers Acquire Jose Veras
Trade rumors swirled around the Detroit Tigers' bullpen early in the year as the team couldn't settle on a closer early on and then went to Jose Valverde, who didn't appear to have much left in the tank. But by the time they finally acquired a reliever, the back of the bullpen had been solidified with Joaquin Benoit taking hold of the closer's role and Drew Smyly locking down the lefty setup role.
Adding Jose Veras, a veteran with late-inning experience, in a deal with the Houston Astros on July 29 not only improved the team's depth, it also allowed Detroit to ease rookie Bruce Rondon into the majors and keep the talented, yet unreliable, Al Alburquerque out of too many high-leverage situations.
Aside from a few shaky outings, the 32-year-old Veras has done a good job for Detroit with a 2.19 ERA in 12.1 innings to go along with a save and three holds. His presence, along with Benoit and Smyly, should give the team a good chance to succeed in the playoffs.
Low-A outfielder Danry Vasquez was the player who went to Houston in the trade, along with a player to be named later. The 19-year-old Vasquez has a .655 OPS with one homer in 27 games, but he has 11 hits in his past 35 at-bats with a triple and three walks.
Braves Acquire Scott Downs
The Atlanta Braves lost two of the best lefty relievers in the game—Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters—to season-ending elbow injuries and, surprisingly, haven't missed a beat on their way to a division title.
Rookie left-hander Luis Avilan (1.44 ERA, 22 holds) has been a huge part of the team's continued success out of the pen, but there's no doubt that they are a much better team since adding 37-year-old veteran Scott Downs in a July 29 trade with the Los Angeles Angels for rookie reliever Cory Rasmus (2.79 ERA in nine Triple-A games; two ER in 2.1 MLB innings since trade).
In 14 appearances since the trade, Downs has allowed just one run—he still picked up a hold in that game as the Braves beat the Nats 2-1 on August 18—while picking up four holds and two wins with 13 strikeouts in 10.2 innings. While Downs has exactly the same amount of career playoff appearances as Avilan (0), manager Fredi Gonzalez will certainly feel a lot better about his chances knowing that one of his lefties has over 500 big league appearances under his belt.
Orioles Acquire Scott Feldman
The O's didn't waste much time in addressing their starting rotation depth, which had taken a hit because of injuries early in the season. On July 2, they acquired Scott Feldman, along with catcher/first baseman Steve Clevenger, from the Chicago Cubs for right-handed starter Jake Arrieta and right-handed reliever Pedro Strop.
Chicago is getting solid returns from its new pitching duo, although it's safe to say that they had reached the end of the line with the O's. A new start appears to have paid off, at least thus far. Arrieta has had two really good starts and two so-so starts, which is perfectly OK for a rebuilding team. Not a playoff contender like the O's. Strop, 28, has emerged as the Cubs' "closer of the future" after struggling badly with the O's before the deal.
As for Feldman, who was having one of his best season's as a big leaguer before the deal (3.46 ERA in 15 starts), he hasn't been as consistent with the O's, who've won only five of his nine starts. In the five wins, the 30-year-old right-hander has a 2.72 ERA with nine walks and 25 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched. In the four losses, he has a 7.52 ERA.
Still, he's been much better than the alternatives, which included a rotation of unproven starters from Arrieta to Zach Britton to Josh Stinson and even 10 starts from 36-year-old veteran Freddy Garcia.
Orioles Acquire Bud Norris
The O's knew they weren't getting an "ace" when they trade for Astros No. 1 starter Bud Norris on July 31 in exchange for outfielder L.J. Hoes (.712 OPS, HR, 7 SB in 26 MLB games since trade), lefty Josh Hader (3.06 ERA in four Low-A starts since trade) and a draft pick. But he's done an adequate job since coming to Baltimore.
Despite not having the same success pitching deep into games with Houston (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs in 13 of 21 starts with the Astros; only two of six with the Orioles), the 28-year-old Norris has pitched good enough for his team to win. The Orioles have won five of his six starts, in fact, and his offense only had to bail him out from a poor performance in one.
This deal will take much longer to grade than some of the others because Norris is under team control through 2015, but an Orioles playoff appearance will certainly help push it up a notch or two.
A's Acquire Alberto Callaspo
One of the more under-the-radar deals of the month, Alberto Callaspo has been much better than advertised after coming over from the Angels in a July 31 trade for second base prospect Grant Green.
While Green has put up big numbers for the Angels (.786 OPS, 3 2B, 8 BB in 20 games), he was pressing after a rough start in Oakland (0-for-15, 0 BB, 6 K). After several position changes over the past few years, it was probably time for the 25-year-old to get a fresh start. Callaspo, in the meantime, is doing all he can to ensure the Oakland A's never regret the in-division trade.
In 24 games, the 30-year-old switch-hitter has an .826 OPS with a homer, five doubles, nine RBI, 10 walks and several big hits since the trade. He's also getting the bulk of starts at second base, where he hasn't played regularly since 2009. The A's could also pencil him into a similar role for 2014, as he's signed for just under $5 million.
Yankees Acquire Alfonso Soriano
After being on the trade block for years, Alfonso Soriano's career with the Cubs finally came to an end when he accepted a deal to return to his former team, the New York Yankees, on July 26 for pitching prospect Corey Black (3.32 ERA in four High-A starts since trade).
The Yankees are paying $6.8 million of the remaining portion of his contract (approximately $27 million left through 2014 at the time of deal), which is a bargain of a deal for the production that Soriano has given them thus far during a time when they needed a spark. In 31 games, the 37-year-old has an .874 OPS with 11 homers, 33 runs batted in and five stolen bases.
While the team has gone just 16-15 since the acquisition and has actually lost a few games in the standings in both the division and wild-card standings, it remains in the playoff hunt and could still make a late-season run to make things interesting in New York.
Rangers Acquire Matt Garza
With the spotlight clearly on him amid strong trade speculation, Matt Garza dominated start after start until the Cubs finally traded him to the Texas Rangers on July 22 for four pretty good prospects—third baseman Mike Olt and right-handers C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez.
The 29-year-old hasn't been as good at keeping runs off the board with the Rangers (he had a 1.24 ERA in his final six starts before the trade; he has a 4.44 ERA in seven starts with Texas), but he's giving them a chance to win and pitching deep into games.
No one ever said he was an "ace." He was just pitching like one before the deal. But the Rangers are happy with the fact that Garza has pitched at least seven innings in five of his starts and hasn't allowed more than four earned runs. They've also won five of his seven outings.
When Texas acquired Garza, they were 55-44 and three games back of Oakland for the AL West division lead. The Rangers have gone 23-11 since and now lead Oakland by three games. While he's not making an impact in each and every game, the team's obvious strength is in its rotation, and the addition of Garza is a big reason why. Great move for Rangers general manager Jon Daniels.
Red Sox Acquire Jake Peavy
The Red Sox already had the capability of putting five pretty good starting pitchers in their rotation with another, Clay Buchholz, expected back later in the season. But they didn't have someone like Jake Peavy, a fiery competitor who has the ability to put a team on his back when needed the most.
Nearly a month after being acquired back on July 30 in a three-team deal that sent Jose Iglesias (.647 OPS in 24 games since trade) to the Tigers and Avisail Garcia (.852 OPS in 19 games since trade) to the White Sox—along with three lower-level minor leaguers—Peavy showed that ability when he shut down the Dodgers in a complete-game victory (9 IP, ER, 3 H, BB, 5 K) on Tuesday to give the Sox a 2-1 series win in a possible World Series preview.
The win was only Peavy's second since the trade, although he's pitched very well in four of his five starts (3.31 ERA, 32.2 IP, 27 H, 5 BB, 20 K). When he joined the Sox, they were 64-44 and a half game out in the division behind Tampa Bay.
They've gone 15-11 since and now have a three-game division lead over the Rays. After a rough 2012 in his first season as the Sox's general manager, Ben Cherington is putting himself in position for Executive of the Year.